The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

support Kill The Arcade + Sherwood
author PP date 26/05/08 venue Islington Academy, London, UK

It's a big shame The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus didn't have a chance to come around to the UK two years ago when their debut album was released. I know I'm not the only one who spent their entire summer listening to "Don't You Fake It" in 2006, learning every lyric and scream off my heart, only to be disappointed month after month while waiting for some kind of announcement which would involve the words "Europe" and "The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus" in the same paragraph. A year went by, but I was still listening. Today, two years later? I just couldn't get myself worked up to the same level of anxiety-filled excitement about the band's show as I was travelling my way through London's public transportation system. While it might not sound like much, two years is a long time in the music industry. The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus have since then snowballed massively in the states, selling almost 300,000 records and playing arena-sized venues across the country. It doesn't take a genius to figure out that sooner or later that success will get to your head. But more about that later, first it's time to trawl through the support band sets.

Kill The Arcade

Kill The Arcade stepped on stage first. I must admit I've never heard of the band and I don't even recognize their name, but from what I could gather, they play post-hardcore that's nothing out of the ordinary, owing one part of their sound to bands like Fightstar and Brigade, and the other bit to bands in the vein of Kids In Glass Houses. While the band certainly wasn't re-inventing the wheel tonight, they had a few catchy bits which got me nodding, and especially their vocalist delivered his lines with much passion and dedication. The rest of the band didn't do so at least visibly, so that's something this young band needs to work on. But overall, their set was enjoyable, and would've been even better with another choice of colour for the lighting (blue/red makes your set look dark).



Sherwood, on the other hand, has been hyped up in pretty much every corner of the internet. It seems like no matter what music zine I'm accessing next, Sherwood pops up in an article, review, feature or something else ( I'm looking at you). Nonetheless, I'm not that familiar with the band, owning only their self-titled EP, which never really caught as much onto me as the brilliant reviews of this band otherwise suggest. Their show tonight did little to convince me otherwise. The whole trend of adding indie rock flavour to pop punk has grown old as quickly as it emerged as the next big thing to do, and today there are hundreds if not thousands of bands doing the exact same thing as Sherwood. They might have a keyboardist who on stage is close to matching the frantic HORSE The Band keyboardist in stage presence, sure, but when they are such a small part of the band's sound, his uncontrollable energy on stage just doesn't seem right, especially when the rest of the band is pretty much standing still. Add to that soulless songs (at least live) that resonate one generic indie/pop punk cliché after another, and you'll see me at the bar instead of the dance floor.


The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus

So finally it was time for Ronnie & co to come on stage. Launching straight into a "Waiting"/"False Pretense"/"In Fate's Hands" combination, the sudden realization of how great these guys just were on record two years ago didn't take long to reach everyone in the audience. By "In Fate's Hands", the mosh pits had gotten violent as hell, with young 15 year old scene girls screaming for their lives as they were being crushed underneath Ronnie's dominating screams, which in turn triggered harder and more intense pits to emerge within the floor. Sweaty and out of breath, you could be forgiven for thinking "it was worth the wait" by this point, and as if Ronnie had magically connected with the audience's thoughts, he goes on to explain that they've been trying to come to the UK for a very long time now, but their label wasn't allowing/paying for it, and even today they had paid for the tour out of their own pockets. Even the scene girls surely can appreciate just how expensive it is to get yourselves and all your gear across the Atlantic and to move it from city to city for a period of about two weeks, and pay for accommodation, food and other expenses that you might incur during a tour. Big thumbs up from me at this point.

But then, their set somehow manages to self-destruct in every possible manner. Ronnie isn't hitting any of his clean notes right, resorting into pathetic vibrato "wooh-wooh-wooh" instead of a clean "woooooooooo" bits as he is miles away from the kind of heights he reaches on album. Puts some perspective on just how much auto-tuning/production/pro-tools this band used on their record. But as if that wasn't enough, the band resorts into stupid crowd controlling techniques such as "right side scream NOW!!... okay... now LEFT SIDE!!!... that wasn't bad... lets try it again.. RIGHT SIDE!!!" or "all the girls scream in the house NOW!!" and so on and so on. While that's certainly an acceptable way of buying yourself some time when you only have 45 minutes worth of songs out and over an hour to play them in, it isn't acceptable to be fucking hypocritical about it. You see, immediately after the next song, Ronnie announced that they are the kind of band that doesn't do bullshit, who just come on stage and "play our songs, have a good time, and get off the stage". After some more similar stunts, I was left feeling insulted over my intellect. Sure, the majority of the crowd in attendance tonight was probably under 18 years old, but that doesn't mean that the rest 20% of us should be forgotten. With the rest of their set geared towards entertaining the children instead of putting on great rock show, anyone over 18 at the show should have felt embarrassed or at least angry for having paid for a ticket to this commercialized bullcrap. As if that wasn't enough, the band injects four (!) ballads in a row on stage, with first Ronnie singing two and then guitarist Elias singing two, each without the rest of the band being on stage.

Then there were some covers that I didn't recognize, until the band came back on stage and broke into an absolutely terrible cover of Foo Fighters' "My Hero", which only highlighted Ronnie's weaknesses as a clean singer. That he added some screaming into the track was great, but because he couldn't sing even if his life depended on it, a song that's originally fantastic was ruined by a lackluster performance.

Now I realize I've been extremely negative over their show, but I'm just not willing to let the band get away with commercial crap like this. It might work on a massive arena stage where you have to please a bunch of people who might not know more than your radio hits, but at a venue of 600 people, where most of them are your fans who have waited for two years for the chance of catching a short one hour set, you should be playing fast, heavy songs and save the ballads for the big shows where you get well over an hour of playing time. Pretty much the only positive thing I have to say about their show is that when Ronnie was screaming, he was better than 99% of other screaming vocalists out there. His volume, sound and power during screams was incredible, and helped to lift their show from absolute disaster to just being "almost alright". But for me, the pretentious comments on stage, Elias hanging someone's bra on his guitar, and the complete lack of understanding what are the best parts of their show (the fast, aggressive, heavy, screaming bits), isn't going to earn more than a 4 from a seasoned concert reviewer such as myself.


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